A wide spectrum and large number of children’s toys and toy jewelry items were purchased from both bargain and retail vendors and analyzed for arsenic, cadmium, and lead metal content using multiple analytical techniques, including flame and furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy as well as X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. Particularly dangerous for young children, metal concentrations in toys/toy jewelry were assessed for compliance with current Consumer Safety Product Commission (CPSC) regulations (F963-11). A conservative metric involving multiple analytical techniques was used to categorize compliance: one technique confirmation of metal in excess of CPSC limits indicated a “suspect” item while confirmation on two different techniques warranted a non-compliant designation. Sample matrix-based standard addition provided additional confirmation of non-compliant and suspect products. Results suggest that origin of purchase, rather than cost, is a significant factor in the risk assessment of these materials with 57% of toys/toy jewelry items from bargain stores non-compliant or suspect compared to only 15% from retail outlets and 13% if only low cost items from the retail stores are compared. While jewelry was found to be the most problematic product (73% of non-compliant/suspect samples), lead (45%) and arsenic (76%) were the most dominant toxins found in non-compliant/suspect samples. Using the greater Richmond area as a model, the discrepancy between bargain and retail children’s products, along with growing numbers of bargain stores in low-income and urban areas, exemplifies an emerging socioeconomic public health issue.

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Copyright © 2014 Elsevier. Article first published online: 18 FEB 2014.

DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.01.041.

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